The overall aim of this paper is to compare the human development (HD) and social quality (SQ) approaches in the context of quality of life in general and in relation to development in particular. It commences with a broad overview of several perspectives including: prudential values; Sen's capability approach; Berger-Schmitt and Noll's overarching quality of life construct; Phillips' quality of life construct; and Doyal and Gough's theory of Human Needs. en HD and SQ are introduced. HD emphasises well-being, enlarging people's choices, living a long and healthy life, being educated and enjoying a decent standard of living. All this is predicated on the UNDP's insistence that it is people who comprise the real wealth of nations: HD emphasises the well-being of individuals. Two sets of tensions are then discussed: first between the ability to exercise individual freedom and the constraints upon freedom imposed by the provision of compulsory education of children which facilitates that freedom (an institutional threshold to 'the social'); and secondly, the relationship between personhood, social relationships and collective capabilities (an interactive threshold to the social). This is followed by an exploration of whether HD's individualistic orientation is a weakness or whether its explicit incompleteness is a strength. The paper concludes with a discussion of possible ways forward in developing the HD construct, either by incorporating the notion of 'the social' within its framework or else via strategies of using it in partnership with the social quality theory that can both extend it and provide it with a richer theoretical justification.